Tag: Republicans

Why Voting Green Isn’t a Wasted Ballot

Green Party USA Logo

Green Party USA Logo

As you know if you are even a casual reader of this blog, I am committed to Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency as long as he remains in the race. If and when he drops out, I plan to work for, support and vote for whoever the Green Party nominates; I presume that will be Dr. Jill Stein, who was the 2012 nominee of the party, but whoever garners the nomination will get my vote in the event Sanders doesn’t make it.

I have elsewhere explained my reasons for making this choice. These include, in brief:

  1. I do not like or trust Hillary Clinton. She is a defense hawk at a time when world peace needs to be near the top of the agenda. Her late conversion to opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline tells me all I need to know about her sensibilities on global climate change. None of her ideas are fresh.
  2. While I am loath to vote for a candidate from either major party (more below), Sanders is only a Democrat in name for the purposes of this campaign. His policy positions go well beyond the present and recent Democratic Party platforms and align somewhat closely (though not as closely as I’d like) with the Greens, whose platform meets with 90% approval.
  3. The Green Party is the only global political party worth the title. In a world where problems transcend national and cultural borders, that approach to politics must be the future if the planet is to survive, let alone thrive.

Many of my friends, when they find out my voting plans, are aghast. “A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the Republican!” they say incredulously. “Why would you want to waste your vote like that plus taking a chance you’ll help elect a Cruz or a Trump?”

Fellow political blogger John Uebersax has done an excellent job of explaining the rationale behind a decision to vote for a third-party candidate. I encourage you to take time to read at least the summary of his thinking that occupies the first part of that post. Briefly, here are my primary points.

  1. The two major political parties are Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum in their broadest policy positions. With Sanders out of the equation, the Democrats differ from the Republicans basically only in degree on the major issue of the day: global climate change, the economy, income inequality. The differences seem huge because of the way they are painted by media dedicated to upholding the Establishment power structures on which they feed. While it is certainly the case that the Democrats have a better record on civil and human rights, those issues are not existential in the same way global climate change, e.g., is.
  2. Voting for the lesser of two evils still results in an evil outcome. (I don’t really believe in evil, but I use the terminology because it is commonly understood.)
  3. While it may be true that in 2016 voting a third party ticket isn’t going to result in a win, it can hasten the day — which I expect will come within 20-30 years — when the United States becomes a multi-party nation in which all parties are dedicated to governing rather than destroying.
  4. If ever there was a year when voting outside the two major parties was likely to make sense, it’s 2016. Whether the GOP nominates Trump (which I suspect they will) or Cruz (a worse alternative in my view), Hillary will bury them. Not only will the Democrats hold the White House, they’ll probably regain control of the Senate and significantly weaken the Republican majority in the House. Down ticket races will also go heavily Democratic as conservatives are tarnished by the outrageous positions and behaviors of the GOP slate. The chances that a couple of million people voting for what they’d really like to see instead of what they’ll settle for will throw the election one way or another is patently absurd. In a close election year, that view might not hold water but it certainly does in 2016.
  5. If the Greens and/or other third parties gain sufficient numbers of voters, the mainstream parties will be forced to shift their policy positions in order to increase their competitiveness. The net result will be a government that comes closer to modeling my views instead of one where the differences on the issues that matter most to me are all but negligible.
  6. By voting Green, I may contribute to the party receiving enough support in 2016 that it will qualify for ballot access in all 50 states and matching FEC funds in 2020, both important steps to the establishment of a viable third party.

I’m not unrealistic. I know the Green candidate won’t win in 2016. I have predicted that the GOP will nominate Trump, which will fracture them badly and open the doors wide for a massive victory by HRC in November as well as significant gains in Congress. But in much the way that Bernie has caused Clinton to shift to the left and to discuss important issues she’d rather not focus on, a significant showing by the Greens in 2016 can begin to shift the major parties in directions that I will find more palatable and more likely to avoid the catastrophic future that awaits my beautiful children and grandchildren if either of the mainstream parties’ platforms hold sway for another 4-8 years.

Isn’t it better — more moral, more in integrity — to vote for what you really want rather than waste a vote on someone with whom you will never be truly satisfied as your leader?

Don’t Stop Trump, Stop the Far More Dangerous Cruz! Better Yet, Stop Them Both

The Republican Party’s presidential nominating circus is about at its midway point and so far the only clear things are that a plurality (30-40%) of the “base” who vote in primaries and caucuses prefer Donald Trump and that everyone else can’t stand the guy. The GOP Establishment — whoever that is these days — is stumbling into line behind Ted Cruz, who’s such a terrible person that even his fellow Congress Critters hate him.

I personally believe Cruz is more dangerous than Trump could ever be. Trump is an opportunist with no political chops or interest who changes positions — to the extent that he even has any — at the drop of a PR advisor’s hat. Cruz is a dangerous fanatical idealogue who truly believes the racist, ignorant crap he spews forth as his stump[ed] speech. Trump’s ignorance is, at least theoretically, fixable. Cruz’ demagoguery isn’t. He actually believes that stuff! And he’s annoyingly smug and self-righteous about those indefensible beliefs.

As a progressive and long-time political kibitzer, I’m convinced it doesn’t ultimately matter who gets the GOP nod this year, he (or she?) is going to get creamed. But I’m also a firm believer in a multi-party system and I don’t want to see the Republican Party fall into ignominy and irrelevance. One-party rule, even if it’s a party I can agree with much of the time, isn’t a good plan for running a democracy’s political side.

So I’m rooting for a contested convention which nominates someone who isn’t sullied by the current filth the GOP has put on as a presidential selection process. I have no idea who that might be but I’m sure it will be someone with conservative cred, which is enough to sink them in the General without destroying the party in its entirety.


Enough With the Freaking Polls Already!

My favorite news commentator, it will come as no surprise to learn, is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. While there are some things about her show and her delivery (enough with the frigging 39 teases to get us to stay tuned, Rachel! We’re watching already!) that I find annoying, she is, for the most part, a really bright, articulate, insightful journalist. She has a clear viewpoint and she doesn’t make any bones about it. I don’t view her show so much as news as sharing with us her views about what the news means.

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Commentator

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Commentator

But she has been part of — perhaps even leading — the parade of otherwise competent journalists who insist on spending hours and hours of air time analyzing absolutely meaningless polls. She has a “hair on fire” approach to anything that shows the Republican Party in general and conservative Republicans specifically in a bad light. So she reports on the presidential preferential polls taking place more than a year before the election and months before any actual voting in primaries, treating them as if they were the Ultimate Truth, the Perfect Prognosticators of what the election results will look like.

She knows better and once in a while she admits as much. But still she cranks up the polling siren every night. “Donald Trump very well could be the Republican Party’s nominee” is red meat for her core followers but it’s (as she likes to say) bullpuckey and she damn well knows it. These polls are meaningless and their results, if correctly interpreted, don’t really tells us what she (and so many others) keep telling us they mean.

Just look at the latest numbers.

CBS News/New York Times GOP Poll Dec 10, 2015

CBS News/New York Times GOP Poll Dec 10, 2015

The most recent CBS News/New York Times poll data has Trump at 35%, which is more than double his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in at 16%. This means, according to Rachel, that Trump’s numbers are “through the roof.”

No, it doesn’t.

Let’s take a calm, sensible look at this data.

First, notice who is being polled here. It’s “Republican Primary Voters” (see the label across the top?). Actually, digging a bit deeper you’ll find that all of these early polls focus on likely GOP primary voters. This means that the pollsters filter out anyone who won’t say they’re even likely to vote in the primary. But there’s no indication of how many such voters are being discounted, many (perhaps even most) of whom may well vote when their turn comes. So this is a smallish sample of a smallish sample.

Second, notice who’s not represented. There is no slot for “I don’t know” or “None of the above.” Which leads to the conclusion that it’s likely that option isn’t on the surveys and/or is being removed from consideration because, after all, what this poll wants to do is to test these candidates against one another.

Third, even if you ignore those two points, if 35% of all GOP voters can be said to be pro-Trump, that means 65% are not. Now, tally up the totals of the remainder of the field. The other 14 GOP candidates have a combined total of just over 55%. This means two obvious things.

First, the “not Trump” portion of the field has a clear majority even when it’s broken down in this overly simplistic and largely meaningless way.

Second, Something around 10% of the “GOP Primary Voters” aren’t represented here at all since the sum total of all the candidates is around 90%. With a margin of error of 6 points, we may be looking at an even smaller actual percentage.

So how can Rachel — or any other thoughtful observer — conclude that Trump’s candidacy is real and serious when this fairly simple digging reveals those kinds of insights? I contend that one cannot; that Rachel is simply engaging in the other half of her job (besides intelligent commentator), which is ratings flogger. If she did The Right Thing, she’d either ignore these polls or she’d present them in a broader and more appropriate context and give them much less air time.

Now, just for grins, let’s take the whole issue of polling in its broader electoral context. Even assuming that all of my observations above — and several I didn’t take time for — are wrong and that these poll results are accurate and have real meaning in some context, what is that context?

If you’re a political junkie (and I can only assume you are since you’ve already read almost 750 words of this piece), you can remember the 2012 race. During the course of that race, even once actual voters had cast actual ballots producing actual delegates, the lead for the GOP nomination changed hands a dozen or more times. And sometimes, the leaders’ margins were as high or nearly so as Trump’s are currently. The polls in 2012 were historically wrong. Over and over.

Take a look at this excellent graph over at RealClearPolitics.com. It’s interactive; drag your mouse along the graph and you can look at any point in time from February 2011 through to the concluding point in April 2012 when Mitt Romney sewed up the nomination. Notice the incredible jumble of lines that occupies the vast majority of that time until — wait for it! — late February 2012. By then, several state primaries had been held including Super Tuesday, and the chart finally sorted itself out.

Slice this another way. Assume Trump carries the Iowa caucuses in a landslide as the fake numbers so far suggest. (The caucuses aren’t held until Feb. 1, with New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary eight days later.) Care to take a guess when was the last time the winner of the GOP caucuses in Iowa went on to get the party nomination? If we consider only years in which the party had multiple nominees, it was 2000 when George W. Bush carried the state with 41% of the vote. The last two rounds went to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, neither of whom survived to the conventions.

So if Trump is indeed somehow deemed a “prohibitive favorite” to win Iowa, maybe that should be a cause for relief and rejoicing since it likely means he won’t be the party’s nominee.

Then if you’ll indulge me just one final observation, there is the two-headed question of who these likely primary voters are and what their level of political awareness is at the moment.

How many people do you know who are not political junkies like us who are even paying attention to the presidential races at the moment? I thought as much. And of those, how many are thoughtful, considerate semi-partisan observers as opposed to committed progressives and conservatives whose personal party platform is pretty well set and whose preference you could predict with near certainty? Yep. Given that we are almost 90 days out from the first actual voting (if you can call Iowa straw polls and caucuses an actual vote), the upcoming holidays, the hundreds of distracting events in the news and the completely disastrous economy facing almost everyone you and I know, it’s not surprising that most of our friends — even those who are politically motivated in season — are just not focused on the 2016 election.

Within that context, thinking only about the GOP field, who has the best name recognition by far? Donald trumps them all. (Sorry, had to get one of those in before I was done.) And he’s an absolute master of the arts of propaganda and public relations (which are often difficult to distinguish). So the real shock would be if, in these specific circumstances, anyone but Trump were leading the polls.

Now, take a deep breath, brew up a nice cup of chamomile tea, put on some of your favorite relaxation music, and chill. The real pursuit of the nomination will come soon enough.

And, Rachel, please consider giving us less meaningless polling and more discussion of the actual issues your audience worries about now and for the foreseeable future? You’re not adding much light to the discussion these days.

Thanks everyone. You can go back to putting out your hair now.

Presidential Candidates Graded on Climate Change: Only 4 Get Passing Grades, One on GOP Side

The Associated Press did an interesting fact check on the accuracy of statements made by the Presidential candidates of both parties. The result, shown in this graph, was high marks for Democrats and only one GOP candidate (Jeb Bush) getting a (barely) passing grade.

Graphic shows results of survey of scientists on candidates’ statements on climate change; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Graphic shows results of survey of scientists on candidates’ statements on climate change; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

The study was done as objectively as possible. Eight climate scientists were shown candidate comments without identifying the candidates in any detectable way. Thus their findings are hardly subject to the charge that they were even incidentally partisan.

Interestingly, the top tier of GOP candidates are all near the bottom of the truth scale, with the recently trending Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas coming in at a dismal 6% accuracy. That result let one of the scientists evaluating the responses to say, “”This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner. That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”

See, even scientists have a sense of humor!

Of Course the GOP Debate Outdrew the Dems: No Clowns!

Everyone knows a circus isn’t a circus without clowns. Political debates are largely circuses of various kinds.

trump_clownSo it came as no surprise to me that CNN reported an average of 15.3 million viewers to last night’s Democratic Presidential Debate compared to the 23 million who watched the Republican debate last week. The GOP has multiple clowns and one terrific clown-in-chief. The Democrats have at best one clown-in-training, Jim Webb (who actually probably belongs in the GOP anyway).

With the Democratic race viewed broadly as largely decided (I disagree, but it’s the majority view) and the Dems’ tendency to debate, you know, issues and policy and other boring stuff instead of screaming and shouting and seeing who can make a bigger ass of him or herself, combined to make the Democratic debate far harder to hype and less “interesting” to watch. Unless you’re a policy wonk (guilty), there was no contest.

The question the American people will decide next November is whether to back the candidate from the more entertaining party or the one from the more thoughtful one. I’m afraid we already know the answer.


GOP House Hoisted by Its Own Pitard

The current chaos among Congressional Republicans has a pretty simple explanation, but strangely it’s one I haven’t seen mentioned in top-tier analysts’ commentary. The party’s levers of control have been removed by what I call Big Outside Money (BOM).

gop_leadership_crisisIt used to be that you got elected to Congress through, in no small measure, the good offices of the party apparatchik. The top leaders were, very often, the top fund-raisers in the party. More importantly, they were the ones who shared large portions of their own war chests with junior members up for re-election. So when the leadership announced the party’s position on a given piece of legislation, those backbenchers who owed their seat and their possible re-election to the top brass knuckled under and voted as told.

Today, the Tea Party and other anti-government hard right-wing groups and individuals are the source of funds for Congressional races. These newcomers have no sense of loyalty to the party; it’s all to the hard-core conservatives who don’t make up the base and certainly not the majority of the party or even of a district’s constituents but do comprise the vast majority of the funding shoring up the otherwise weak representative.

This leaves the party leadership with only one method of controlling members’ votes other than a vain appeal to an unfelt loyalty: committee assignments. Here again, it is BOM that thwarts the leaders. Formerly, plum seats on key committees meant lots of media exposure and thus greater chances not only of re-election but of career advancement. But in today’s 24/7 news cycle, any idiot who happens to have stumbled into the right billionaire’s sights and gotten himself elected a pawn of that influencer in Washington, can get all the media attention he wants.

There have always been backbenchers. There have always been rebels. There have always been Congresscritters who disagreed with their party and cast renegade votes. But in the past, these folks didn’t last long in the corridors of Congress. Today, they are unintimidated (and in fact unimpressed) by the old trappings of power and control.

I don’t see a way to fix that. I believe the conservative ranks in this nation will splinter into two parties in the near future, leading to a sort of coalition government that is at the core of the instability of so many other countries’ governance.

Welcome to the New Politics.

Ben Carson: Bullet-Riddled Bodies Not as Important as Gun Rights

Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is reported to have said today:

“I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,”

ben_carsonIf that statement reflects Dr. Carson’s actual beliefs, then he is a dangerously immoral (or amoral) man who shouldn’t be allowed within 100 miles of the Nuclear Football. And, by the way, he should never be allowed to practice medicine again since he’s clearly in disagreement with the Hippocratic Oath. If he made the statement for political expediency and doesn’t really feel that way, then he should be drummed out of the race for one of the biggest displays of hypocrisy in a deceit-filled 2016 Presidential campaign season. I’d have been surprised if even The Donald had made such an absurd statement. But a doctor? A man who has held many peoples’ lives in his hands? A man who supposedly believes in the sanctity of life?

Seriously? Any one body with bullet holes ought to engender in us as human beings a level of sadness, compassion, discouragement and disappointment in humanity that transcends any and all political or policy persuasions or positions.

It is this kind of rhetoric that makes me ache for the old Republican Party of men of honor like Jacob Javits, Everett Dirksen, and Nelson Rockefeller. I was never a conservative (well, there was that one time, but…) but I always had deep respect for the thinking of men like William F. Buckley Jr.

I see no similar politician or pundit on the horizon today worthy of my respect for his or her intellect, sanity and cogent argumentation. The most damning thing about Carson’s incredibly insensitive comment is that I wasn’t surprised by it. The second most damning thing is that I would have believed its attribution to any of the dozen-plus candidates for the GOP nomination.

The GOP Debate: By Ignoring Climate Change, They Lose the Only One That Matters

Ultimately, global climate change is the singular issue of our time. Oh, there are lots of other issues vying for near-term center stage, and I have opinions about most of them. Income inequality threatens our way of life in the West; police violence and the larger police state formation issues are crucial to the underlying justice of our culture; women’s right to govern their own health and rule their own bodies is under renewed and vicious attack which must be repelled.

But when I think about the Big Political Questions, I like to ask myself “In 100 years, how much difference will this make?” And judged against that yardstick, every single issue other than global climate change pales. Because the simple truth is that the human destruction that is being caused and will continue to be caused — and to rapidly escalate — by the horrific damage we have been doing to the planet for the past century or more will reduce the human population by a huge amount, perhaps rendering us extinct in far less time than most of us think or believe.

So if we’re not even around in a century or two, how much real difference will it make if we continue income inequality, violence, ridiculous human rights violations, and a thousand other “bad things” we encounter? Sadly, not much.

That’s why I’ve become a single issue voter who defaults to progressive parties and politics on all the other issues. I demand that any party or politico seeking my support be crystal clear in its/her/his/their support for all the drastic action necessary to reduce the long-term impacts of climate change and I don’t much care what they do on any other issue.

In the two-headed monstrosity that was a so-called “debate” last night among 17 people who want to stand as the Republican Party’s nominee for President in 2016, the question of global climate change received essentially zero attention. Of course, that didn’t matter for a number of reasons, not the least of which is we already know where all of these would-be leaders stand. They see global climate change as a hoax which, even if it’s real, is a natural occurrence and has nothing to do with human conduct and is therefore something about which we cannot do anything.

By its conduct and its stance on this one issue, the GOP has disqualified itself from any consideration whatsoever for my support for the foreseeable future. I know; they don’t care. They didn’t have it to begin with (though I have on occasion voted for Republicans where I thought the GOP candidate superior to the others). I’m a progressive, so there’s no room in the GOP tent for me. And they don’t care about me, either, because I’m not like them.

But they need to get the message. And they will eventually, as they see their beachfront properties disappear and their inland properties become the new beachfronts. Maybe then, when their billion-dollar investments and their multi-million dollar mansions are under water, they’ll wake up. But probably not. They’ll probably just ask for a government bailout, which they’ll receive from the Congress they own.

Ultimately, though, humanity loses if the GOP and other climate deniers win.


When is a Religious “Principle” Not a Religious “Principle”? When It’s Politically Inconvenient

GOP Presidential hopeful Jeb! (no-last-name-needed) hides behind his adopted Catholicism to defend his position on marriage equality but declines to take his Pope’s teachings about the environment at face value. In doing so, he follows in the grand tradition of the liberal wing of the Catholic Church which has long displayed a kind of “cafeteria Catholicism” (a term I borrowed from American Conservative columnist Rob Dreher).

But if he reserves the right to disavow Pope Francis’ teachings on climate change as revealed in the Pontiff’s release last week of a major encyclical on the subject, then he can’t justify his opposition to gay marriage solely on the basis of Church teachings. He simply can’t have it both ways without revealing a kind of political pragmatism that defies any claim to political principle.

In a story posted on Grist, columnist Mark Joseph Stern wrote, “the candidate seems to follow Catholic teachings when they align with the Republican Party — and dismiss them when they don’t.” Furthermore, he denounced the climate change encyclical even before it was released and, therefore, clearly without having read it. Good, practicing Catholics are not required to agree with or follow the Pope’s teachings as embodied in his encyclicals, but they are required to give those views thoughtful and careful consideration, according to this article from the Catholic News Agency.

Nearly one-third of Congress is Catholic. If all of these politicians were good, practicing Catholics, they would be expected to give serious consideration to Pope Francis’ well-researched and incisive (as well as insightful) teachings on this complex subject. (Yes, I have in fact read the 180-page document in its entirety, which I suspect few if any of those in Congress have done.) If they did that, I suspect it would dramatically shift the tenor of the debate in Congress on climate change policy.

Pastor Huckabee Gets it Wrong on Dealing With Poverty

Check out my spiritual blog post today on a comment made by Politician-Pastor Mike Huckabee regarding his announcement that he’s going to announce his Presidential intentions.

He said that he became “a Republican because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me.”

I take both spiritual and political issue with the good Reverend in my post.